To Trade or Not to Trade: Roy Oswalt & Lance Berkman

In TCB's recent interview with Brian McTaggart, he suggested that the Astros may not keep Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman around till they retire. Instead, these players may request trades to play with, you know, actually competitive teams. Crazy idea, right?

With that thought circling around my brain, I saw this article over at MLB Trade Rumors last weekend, discussing Carlos Lee's relative trade value. Last summer, I ran through some of the trade values of current Astros using Sky Kalkman's excellent Trade Value Calculator spreadsheet. This all gave me a good basis to start wondering, should the Astros trade either Berkman or Oswalt? Would anyone want them? What could the Astros get in return?

This is the first in a series which will delve into these questions. This first installment will look at what kind of value the Astros can expect to receive based on trades made this offseason for big-name players. After the jump, we'll get into the particulars on Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson and Javier Vazquez.

I've cited a lot of the articles I used at the bottom of this page, but the two that you might want to familiarize yourself with are the first one on Victor Wang's prospect valuation research and the actual article that introduces the Trade Value Calculator. The first takes a look at what a particular prospect will be worth to a team, using probabilities of big league success based on where they show up on different prospect lists. The second uses a spreadsheet model that the user then plugs in contract numbers and projected WAR data into to get a net value. This is then added up for each player to get a total trade value.

To control for differences in the different prospect lists, I took the 2009 lists from Baseball America, ESPN's Keith LawJohn Sickels of Minor League Ball and Project Prospect and dumped them all into an Excel file.* I then added all the lists together to aggregate the data and sorted based on this new number. For instance, Matt Wieters was ranked No. 1 on all three lists, so he had a total value of 4. I used this when deciding on Top 100 hitters and pitchers and went to Sickel's grading system for anyone who didn't show up on these lists. Since I was looking at trades made back in November and December, I used the prospect lists from 2009, since the new lists are just coming out now. When analyzing possible landing spots for Oswalt and Berkman, I'll use a similar list for 2010. For now, though, I went with last year's data which tended to undervalue guys like Kyle Drabek.

*If you're interested in what this list looks like, I've uploaded it to a Google Document here.

In my estimation of the WAR data, I used FanGraphs to look up 2009 WARs and to get the CHONE projections when I could. If they only had fan projections available, I tended to downgrade the WAR slightly and then either control or show a slight decline in WAR for future seasons.

What I got was a good model to analyze what kind of value teams got for trades made last offseason. The interesting thing was there weren't many comparables for Berkman, since only one (relatively) big name hitter was traded. I did get some good information on pitchers, though, as this was a fertile winter for arms. Let's look at the value of some of these guys:

  • Roy Halladay, one-year contract for 15.8 million in 2010. His trade value was at 16.7 million.
  • Cliff Lee, one-year contract for 5.8 million in 2010. His trade value was at 26.7 million.
  • Javier Vazquez, two-year contract for 14.5 million in 2010 and 15 million in 2011. His trade value was at 18.2 million.
  • Edwin Jackson, two years of arbitration left. Went with high arb. figure for 2010 of 6.3 million and 80 percent of total value for 2011. His trade value is 12.3 million.
  • Curtis Granderson, four-year contract for 5.5m in '10, 8.3 in '11, 10 in '12 and 13 in '13. His trade value is at 40.1 million.

Four of the five guys mentioned above were involved in three-team mega-deals. However, each could be broken down into components that play out like two-team trades. Let's look at each situation individually.

  • Halladay - Doc went from Toronto to Philadelphia for catcher Travis d'Arnaud, pitcher Kyle Drabek and outfielder Michael Taylor. d'Arnaud and Taylor were each given 'B' grades by Sickels but were not listed in the Top 100 hitters in 2009. Drabek had a 'C' grade thanks to some arm injuries but was young enough to have some value. The two hitter were worth 5.5 million each and Drabek was worth 2.1 million, though that should probably be bumped up some. At any rate, their total of 13.1 million was 78.6 percent of Doc's value next season, which was a pretty good return on the trade, as you'll see later.
  • Lee - The Phillies brought in Halladay but had to ship out Lee to afford the big Toronto ace. Philadelphia got pitcher Phillipe Aumont, outfielder Tyson Gillies and pitcher Juan Ramirez in return. Aumont was a top 100 pitcher, so was worth 9.8 million but neither Gillies or Ramirez made that list and were both grade C guys. Gillies was worth .7 million and Ramirez 2.1 million. This brings the prospect total to 12.6 million or 47.23 percent of Lee's total value. It appears that the Phillies really didn't get much value back from Lee, but that may be offset by the gain in value from Halladay.
  • Vazquez - This trade was a little different than the two previous, because it included a proven big leaguer instead of all prospects. Cabrera is still arbitration eligible, signing for 3.1 million in 2010 and was projected at 80 percent his total value for 2011. His trade value was then at 18.9 million, accouting for two bounce-back seasons in WAR. The Braves also got Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino in return, each worth 2.1 million in value. This meant the Braves actually came out ahead with 23.1 million in value or 127.3 percent of Vazuez' total value.
  • Jackson - This trade also featured a non-rookie in Scherzer, but one who's a little harder to project. Though Scherzer posted a WAR of 3.6 in 2009, most scouts view him as a bullpen arm in the long term. Since Detroit controls his value for four more seasons, I kept his WAR at an even 3.0 for each of those. This still leaves his total value at 34.1 million after he plays out the last year of a four year, 4.3 million draft day deal. Detroit also got Daniel Schlereth, who was not a Top 100 guy, but was a grade B by Sickels as the second-highest prospect in the Arizona system. Detroit then got 41.4 million in value for Jackson or 337.1 percent of his trade value.
  • Granderson - This was a bit more complicated of a deal, but from Detroit's perspective, they got two prospects from Arizona for Jackson and two guys from the Yankees for Granderson. Thus, we can evaluate trade value from Detroit's perspective, without Ian Kennedy messing up our numbers. Austin Jackson was a Top 50 hitters and was worth 23.4 million while Phil Coke was a grade C guy but was over 23 years old, so was only worth 1.5 million. This give Detroit 24.9 million or a 62.2 percent return on Granderson's trade value.

So, what does this mean for the Astros? Since Oswalt will have 7.8 million in value in 2010 and Berkman will have a value of 10.5 million. If you notice, all the other guys we talked about had much higher trade values than either Puma or Roy-Boy. Ultimately, this will hurt the Astros position when contemplating trades, as will the fact that teams generally get less at mid-season for a guy than they can during the winter. On average, teams got 23.2 million in return for these big name players while shipping out 12.3 million in value. At this rate, the Astros should expect to get something like 1.8 times the value of each of those guys. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Next time, we'll look at which teams may need Roy Oswalt and what kind of prospect package it may take to get him there.

References:

Erik's post summarizing Victor Wang's prospect valuation research

Fangraphs

Baseball-Reference

Cot's Baseball Contracts

MLBTradeRumors

The Trade Value Calculator from BtB

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